A rich Gerrer hasid brings his family to Israel for its yearly vacation.
They stay with non-Orthodox relatives. The hasidim refuse to eat with these relatives – even though the relatives purchase all new dishes for them – and otherwise behave abominably.
If that were the whole story, I wouldn't bother posting this. But there is one more piece to the story that…
…makes posting it justifiable: the Gerrer view of pritzut, sluttishness:
By Neri Livneh
I was 8 years old when I first heard the word prutze angrily hissed at me by my uncle Leibo from Germany. A nasty man who terrorized his four children and his wife, Aunt Raitze, a lovely woman in a wig whom you'd think, after all she went through as a teenager in the camps, wouldn't be fazed by anything anymore. Anything except the frightening religious self-righteousness of the man she married at the end of the war and who, to my father's dismay, also made them live in the land of the Nazis, who had done such a thorough job of annihilating their six siblings and their spouses, dozens of nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, cousins and, of course, their parents.
In her beautiful handwriting, and in Yiddish, Aunt Raitze would inform us every year of their plans to come stay with us for a visit in the summer. For this purpose, they would gather their three grown children (two sons and a daughter) from the far corners of Europe (for fear of assimilation, they had been sent away from the big city where their parents lived to Haredi boarding schools in remote towns) and the youngest daughter, whom the father had kept at home, and come to camp out in our house, a three-room apartment with an enclosed balcony.
When the signal was given, i.e., at the moment when my father mustered the courage to inform my mother about the upcoming visit, she would kind of lose it for a little while. Once she finished, gently and in minute detail, voicing her opinion about the hinyoks (a disparaging Hebrew term for very religious Jews) in general and the Diaspora hinyoks in particular, and especially the hinyoks who were so lacking in self-respect that, out of all the countries in the world, they had stayed in Germany, she would switch gears from talk to action. Put the housekeeper to work for extra hours cleaning every corner of the house, buying separate sets of dishes for meat and dairy, getting new linens that hadn't been touched by any chametz on Passover, and preparing pre-cut toilet paper for Shabbat.
All this effort, only to find that the family wouldn't touch anything aside from a hard-boiled egg in the shell, tea in a glass cup, canned foods with the Badatz kashrut stamp and dairy products in their original packaging, especially chocolate milk that they'd prepare from a special powder that dissolved in cold milk (they brought the powder to Israel with them in a yellow-and-blue metal box, a wondrous thing that was unknown in this country at the time). They never offered us even a tiny taste of the magical chocolate milk, which left me no choice but to sneak spoonful after spoonful of the sweet powder one night, until it was all gone.
Uncle Leibo, though he was one of the most generous contributors to the Gerrer Rebbe, whose Hasid he was, was also a terribly stingy person. Germany was located in that place called "overseas," which it took practically a miracle to get to, and everything that came from there - a hand-me-down skirt, a pair of galoshes or Nesquik chocolate powder - was like a sacred souvenir. Once, one of our neighbors went on some secret mission to Europe, by ship of course, and when he returned a month later he brought gifts for all the children on the street. And there were a lucky few among us who periodically received packages from relatives in America. But from our relatives in Germany we never saw so much as a shoelace or a bar of chocolate, although once my uncle did offer to buy me a long dressing gown.
This was after he saw me one night on my way to the bathroom, while he was still sitting with my parents at the dining table. I was 8 years old and wearing pink cotton pajamas with a picture of Mickey Mouse on them. Leibo was utterly aghast. The girl, he said to my father, is going around like a prutze. My mother didn't know Yiddish, but she understood the word prutze perfectly well, and that set her off. How, she said to my father in pure Hebrew, can an 8-year-old girl look like a slut? It takes a special kind of mind for that, the mind of a pervert. Tell him that the skullcap is burning on the head of the pervert. He didn't say anything, of course.
I thought of Uncle Leibo last week, when I saw on television the dedication ceremony for the Bridge of Chords in Jerusalem, and the report about the craziness that seized Haredim in the city at the thought that 13-year-old girls would be dancing in this needless ceremony. Yehoshua Pollack, the Haredi deputy of the Haredi mayor of Jerusalem and heir apparent to the job, was heard saying that the secular in Jerusalem, in their ignorance, apparently "don't know that girls are prutzot."
The Haredim threatened to hold protests that would ruin the ceremony, which cost about half the annual culture budget of the Jerusalem municipality. Mayor Uri Lupolianski was very concerned, and so a compromise was reached whereby "the sexual identity of the dancers would be obscured" - i.e., the girls would dance covered in wide, floor-length robes, so that the shape of their bodies would not show, and their hair would be all gathered under a black wool hat "without a strand peeking out" as the choreographer informed them to their astonishment. And the black hat was to be covered by the hood of the robe, as if these weren't young girls, but rather Franciscan monks.
Parents were horrified. One father said it was like a Taliban regime and that every secular Jerusalemite should be outraged. Shuki and Yaniv Hoffman, founders of the Mehola Dance Center and its choreographers, both secular Jerusalemites, also talked about how the secular public in Jerusalem needs to wake up. But instead of announcing the cancellation of this circus, Shuki Hoffman gave in, and when the girls under her command protested the order to hide their hair under wool hats, she silenced them, saying, "It's not our decision." Secular members of the city council also urged the secular public to wake up before it's too late, but as usual in Jerusalem, no secular folk thought of boycotting the ceremony or organizing even a small and symbolic protest. Not to mention causing a real fuss.
Perhaps the secular were afraid of wrecking the ceremony in honor of the bridge, which looks like an enormous sail stuck between the stone buildings of the Haredi Givat Shaul and Kiryat Moshe neighborhoods. It is about as necessary there as a marina, and so perfectly encapsulates the condition of the city's secular - suspended by strings from the sky, may God have mercy on them.